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Ministry tones down opposition to Navi Mumbai airport project

Ministry tones down opposition to Navi Mumbai airport project
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First Published: Mon, Feb 15 2010. 10 05 PM IST
Updated: Mon, Feb 15 2010. 10 05 PM IST
New Delhi: The environment ministry has asked for a detailed environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the much-delayed Navi Mumbai airport project, relaxing its previous stand objecting to the facility for threatening 150ha of mangroves.
Following a site visit in December, the ministry has issued additional guidelines for EIA, said minister of state for environment Jairam Ramesh.
“We have also asked them to consult the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) on the matter because GEC is well experienced on restoration of mangroves,” said Ramesh, who had also cited conflicts with coastal regulation zone (CRZ) rules for his previous objections.
These rules are now being amended.
Earlier the CRZ notification wouldn’t allow greenfield airports, but it was later decided by the environment ministry that Mumbai should be given a special status because of its development needs.
The additional “terms of reference” for the EIA report include examining the reorientation or shifting of runways, so that two rivers and the surrounding mangroves are not disturbed. It will also consider whether another area can be identified with better environmental parameters. The current plans include diverting the Ulwe and Gadhi rivers, which drain into the Panvel Creek. The site has about 10 settlements with 4,000-5,000 families, totalling a population of 16,000.
The study will take at least six months, said a civil aviation ministry official, who asked not to be named.
The civil aviation ministry is keen to see the project start moving as the existing Mumbai airport will be filled to capacity by 2014.
The current airport doesn’t have the land to expand beyond the 40 million passengers it’s being built to accommodate by 2012. The Navi Mumbai plan is behind schedule. The City and Industrial Development Corp. of Maharashtra Ltd had estimated the total project cost at Rs9,970 crore over four phases.
The first phase was to have been completed in 2008-12 at a cost of Rs4,200 crore, creating a capacity of 10 million passengers per year. The second phase (2015-17) will augment that capacity to 20 million and cost an estimated Rs1,896 crore. The third phase (2020-22) of Rs1,600 crore will take the capacity to 30 million and reach 40 million in the fourth phase (2026-28) at an estimated cost of Rs2,272 crore.
Assuming that all the clearances are given, the first phase of the project may get further delayed to 2016-17, given that tenders need to be issued, the land has to be levelled, two rivers have to be diverted and 3,000 families have to be resettled, said a civil aviation ministry official who also asked not to be named.
padmaparna.g@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Feb 15 2010. 10 05 PM IST